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Phil Mickelson: Rory McIlroy the man to beat

Updated: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 15:34 | Comments

Phil Mickelson (Right) aims to keep Rory McIlroy in his sights at The Barclays
Phil Mickelson (Right) aims to keep Rory McIlroy in his sights at The Barclays

Phil Mickelson admits Rory McIlroy will be difficult to beat heading into the FedEx Cup play-offs in New Jersey this week.

The PGA Tour begins its four-tournament race to the finish-line with The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club on Thursday, and all eyes will be on world number one McIlroy as he goes for a fourth win in a row after victories at the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA Championship.

The Northern Irishman leads the FedEx Cup rankings and has two play-off victories to his name from 2012 but has yet to claim the big prize and the $10million cheque that comes with it.

The top 125 players in the standings have qualified for The Barclays, with the field being trimmed to 100 for the Deutsche Bank Championship, 70 for the BMW Championship and then 30 for the Tour Championship.

Mickelson has qualified for every Tour Championship since the FedEx Cup began in 2007, a feat matched only by Steve Stricker, who will not play until December due to hip and back injuries, and Hunter Mahan.

The Californian, who also has two play-off wins under his belt, is currently 45th in the rankings but that can change very quickly with a win and, following a second-placed finish behind McIlroy at Valhalla, Mickelson is brimming with confidence.

"The PGA was a big week for me because it was the first time this year my game was back," he told a press conference.

"It gave me an excitement and energy heading into the FedExCup and Barclays here that my game is back and I'm ready to compete and get back into contention.

"It was so fun being up there again, and the nerves and the excitement of it all, it got me excited."

"His level of play this last month has been exceptional" - Phil Mickelson talking about Rory McIlroy 

However, he also knows that to get to the top of the leaderboard he must overcome McIlroy, whose form in the last few weeks he admits has been "incredible".

"His level of play this last month has been exceptional," he said

"Now, from what I've seen over the years with Tiger (Woods), from 2000, if you want to compare it to that, well, he's got a ways to go.

"But to win the British and the PGA and throw a World Golf Championships in the middle under anybody's circumstances, that is just a remarkable month of golf and some of the best that I've seen.

"You can probably go back and compare it to some of the Tiger stuff. He's done that over decades. And I wouldn't be surprised if Rory did it too. You just never know. He's that good. He can do it."

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